As football season moves toward the playoffs next week, the boys and girls who dominate the hardwood courts are preparing for tryouts and hoop season. On Monday and Tuesday afternoon, Bradwell Institute Lady Tiger basketball coach Faye Baker and assistant coach Dana King put prospective players through tryouts. The coaches hope to match last season’s 29-2 overall record and a perfect Region 3-AAAAA mark of 14-0.
Baker said about 35 girls came out for the two-day tryout, but she quickly pinned down the junior varsity and varsity rosters. She said the squads need to get down to business as soon as possible because their first scrimmage, against Liberty County High School, is only 13 days away.
While Baker has some notable returning players in standout guard Mariah Maternik, forward Quintunya Chapman, guard Keandre Frasier, guard Suede Jones and guard Leitia Leitaua, the squad lost Seandre Lee, Camille Jackson and Tiara McNeely when they graduated last year.
"Camille was our motivator. She was our person who did all the little things in court that you didn’t see a lot of time in the stats," Baker said. "She brought so much energy and intensity to the team."
The coach said Lee will be missed because she was the tall forward for their inside game.
"We don’t have anybody with that type of size on our team this year," Baker said. "But one thing that we do have is that our guards are very agile and quick. And that is what we are going to have to focus on. We are going to have to utilize our quickness and agility even more so this year in order to be successful."
The veterans kept busy over the summer, coming together in June, playing in the summer circuit and attending Armstrong Atlantic State University’s annual camp. The coach said the kids played about 20 games over the summer to stay in shape. However, Baker said the summer program didn’t offer much to up-and-coming players. She said they’ll make better arrangements in the future to include younger players, which, in turn, will benefit her Lady Tiger program.
"The quicker we can expose them to our system, the quicker they will be able to learn what they are expected to do," she said of her newer players. "We are basically starting at ground zero with a lot of them."
But Baker said she is pleased with the incoming class of freshmen."There are a few who are going to be really good and will help us a lot down the road. Of course, it might take them a few years to develop but our freshman class is going to be pretty good," she said.
Among her incoming freshman is Shaquoia Crockett, a standout player formerly from First Presbyterian Christian Academy.
"What Shaquoia brings is another point guard, another true ball handler who will help us out tremendously," the coach said. "You know everybody keys in on Mariah Maternik as far as handling the ball. Shaquoia will free Mariah up a lot more and to be our primary ball handler. We can move her to a true guard, which is ideally where we want Mariah to be because she shoots the ball extremely well. She is going to give us more versatility and allow us to utilize some of our other players in other areas that will make us even stronger."
Baker said tryouts went well and she expects an intense season. She said her seniors are starting to step into leadership roles.
"I did see the seniors showing leadership yesterday," she said. "They were very helpful with the younger kids and trying to help them understand the drills and the things we were doing, so hopefully all of our seniors will be leaders this year."